this is what I’ve learned.

the great big north american adventure is over.

It’s been a wonderful trip. I went there thinking this was going to be mainly about the counseling program and as a consolation prize I’d get to see my friends…well that’s not exactly how things turned out.

The gift and the blessing was getting to see my friends. Meeting new people. Being blown away and overwhelmed by how generous and kind people are. I literally spent $350 CAD during my entire month-long trip (excluding the airfare of course). Everything else was provided for – food, beds, couches, hotels.  I stayed with people I didn’t know. I was toured around by friends of friends. It was amazing. It was something I badly needed – to be reminded of the goodness in people.

A bigger blessing was having the freedom to strip away everything people have told me about myself in the past couple of years and just feel free to be myself. No judgments. No unwelcome opinions. No one speaking into my life telling me what is and isn’t wrong with me. I learned so much about who I am as a person and I learned to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will always be one of those people that straddles cultures, that is forever in the camp of the outsiders and people who are labeled “not easy to understand”. That’s OK.

Some lessons I learned on this trip:

  1. People that are truly helpful will just help you. I met so many people that were willing to house me, feed me, tour me around. And yes, some were old and dear friends, but some were strangers – friends of friends that had heard that a girl from another country needed a place to stay and someone to host her. It was amazing to hear people say “What do you need? Let’s make it happen.” instead of just “I’ll pray for you.”
  2. Sometimes, the problem isn’t me. During the course of this trip I felt free to just be myself. I would say something about how shitty I felt or how angry or hurt I was…and instead of hearing “well, maybe it’s you” I heard “that’s such a horrible thing to go through”. Or “that doesn’t seem fair”.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing but back home it always feels like people are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions. If you are feeling angry or hurt or let down then you should find a way to deal with it quickly and move on. Never blame the other person. Never hold anyone accountable but yourself. It was so refreshing to be in an environment that seemed to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. All in all it was great to have my feelings validated.
  3. Standards of beauty are different across the world. Where I live, people freely toss around opinions like “you got fat” or “you look tired” or “your eye bags are so dark!” (because you decided to forego makeup that day). While I was in North America not once did someone tell me to go put on more makeup. I lived in sneakers and leggings for a month and never felt more beautiful and accepted – even when I noticed that I had gained 8 lbs.

The biggest thing that I learned on this trip is to be myself. And to have the courage to fight for that authentic self – that beautifully broken, messy self. So that’s who I’m going to be from now on.

The Middle - Jimmy Eat World

The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

It has taken me 2 and a half months to actually write this down. This trip was so meaningful that it literally took all that time to process and organize my thoughts.

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You don’t have to try so hard.

Today I let my hair do it’s own thing.  Well, for the most part.  I straightened my bangs and then left the rest of my hair alone – which resulted in a beautifully (to me) wavy mess.  A guy friend at work asked me why my hair was wavy today.  I replied that, actually, my hair was really really curly (but now wavy as I’m waiting for the effects of a straightening treatment to wear off).  I just didn’t want to straighten it that day.  I showed him a picture of me with natural curls.  He took one look at it and said “I prefer your hair straight.”  I wanted to hit him.  

I get it.  Everyone has an opinion.  And I don’t need to get upset over every opinion that is different from mine.  Everyone has a preference as far as what they consider beautiful or attractive and that’s fine too.  But here’s the thing.  You don’t have to tell me that what I look like naturally is not appealing to you.  I didn’t ask.  I don’t care.  I don’t exist so I can tailor myself to what you think is aesthetically pleasing.  

This man is a friend of mine.  He’s one of the most unashamed Jesus lovers I know.  And yet, what came out of his mouth was decidedly un-Jesuslike.  What’s even stranger?  He doesn’t think he’s being offensive.  How crazy is that?  That I live in a culture where telling someone you prefer them skinnier or plumper or with straighter hair or fairer skin is considered normal?  Is it really OK to tell people that how God made them naturally is not beautiful?  That they have to change what He had in mind when He designed them?  

I’m a girl – I understand putting your best foot forward.  But I’m talking about natural beauty here.  I was designed by the Creator…who must have thought I’d look beautiful with naturally curly hair!  I have the option to dry, curl, straighten my hair.  God won’t look at me and say “hey, I made your hair curly so you better wear it that way for the rest of your life”.  But He won’t look at me and go “hey, I made a mistake. You really look better with straighter hair” either.  

So, to all the people that want me to have straighter hair, or put on more weight, or put on less weight.  To all the people that tell me that having cellulite and stretch marks are not OK.  To those people that have ever made someone feel ugly by being tactless and not careful with their words…

You don’t get a say.

TRUTH THURSDAYS 2: TODAY I LEAVE BEHIND

roadahead

“Why are you so down on yourself?” It just burst out of him. He hesitated then apologized for his tone. But he didn’t let it go – “you talk like…you think you’re not beautiful” he said, not knowing he was breaking my heart. Today I leave behind…every demeaning thought I have of myself.

I am too much. Too strong. Too opinionated. No man would ever want a girl that will occasionally cuss like a sailor and tell him when he’s being a dick. (That was mild. Come on now.)

I have riotous curly hair. The kind that looks like it has been electrocuted. A bird’s nest. Hair that looks like a weasel died on top of my head.

I have flab. Stretchmarks, dimples and cellulite and my ass sags more on one side than the other. Yes, I went there.

I dress indecently, especially for God-fearing, church loving men. I am a woman they do not respect.

I am an insecure bundle of nerves and again who would want to be friends with (or more than friends with) someone who is constantly belittling herself or putting herself down?

There. I’ve laid it bare – all this ugliness. Now to “bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes”. 

I am wonderfully opinionated. I speak my mind and am forthright and honest. One day some sexy man of God (what?!) will see that and will adore that about me. He will thank his lucky stars for having found someone who will not resort to the silent treatment to punish him, for someone who will rationally confront him over any concerns and issues. This does not make me less of a woman.

I have beautifully messy hair. It is sexy and uninhibited (really uninhibited). One day it will be longer and will be even more beautiful than it is now.

My body is soft and inviting (not that kind of inviting. Jeez.). I am a woman. I have dangerous curves and yes a little bit extra here and there but that only makes me more womanly. This body functions. It does wonderful things (walking, running, dancing). I am grateful for it.

I love being a woman. I dress like one. I have been told I have “legs that stop traffic”. Occasionally they make an appearance. That does not make me a whore. That does not make me cheap or easy. I like to showcase my assets but never in a cheap or tawdry way. Only in a way that celebrates my femininity. Most of the time I dress for myself. On rare occasion, I dress for a guy. Hey, it happens and it’s completely normal. I will be sensitive to my brothers’ eyes. I will do my best not to make them stumble. But I cannot please everyone and there will be men that think wearing a miniskirt means you cannot possibly be wife material. I will pray for them. They need it.

I am a normal woman with normal insecurities. But I am an amazing creation of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. I love much and am loved much. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like me?

Today I leave behind what people have said about me. What I have said about myself. Today I will carry who God tells me I am. A work in progress. Imperfect. But beautifully so.